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Monday, October 22, 2018

The Romanoffs 1.3: House of Special Purpose: Meta Ghost Story

The Romanoffs 1.3, entitled House of Special Purpose, is the most conceptually ambitious and sophisticated of the standalone episodes so far.  It's also closest to my favorite genre as a reader, viewer, and writer - science fiction - and it stars Christina Hendricks, who was one of the leading lights on Mad Men.

She gives an outstanding performance as Olivia Rogers, an actress who flies to a windy part of Europe to play the Tsarina Alexandra Romanov in a six-part television series about the Romanovs.  That's what I mean about this excellent episode being meta.  (By the way, the offs is an Anglicized alternate spelling of the ovs in The Romanoffs.)

The ghost part, which is not really science fiction but dark fantasy, is why I said ghost story - science fiction and fantasy can be French-kissing cousins.  In House of Special Purpose, there's some serious kissing going on, against a backdrop of Olivia bumping into another reality in which she really is Alexandra, or at least some kind of real Romanov.   (Hey, alternate reality is ipso facto science fiction, too.)  She encounters people who speak Russian who in fact apparently do not.  Passions and memories from the real Tsar and Tsarina and Rasputin are afoot though not in the script.  Olivia struggles to understand what is going on, be professional in her acting, but that becomes increasingly difficult.  I won't tell you the powerful ending, but let's just say that hotel in which she is staying is even more possessive than the Hotel California.

There's dark humor sprinkled into this episode along with the straight-up fright, and lots of inside wit about the TV and movie industry.   A superb episode as good as the second, which I said last week was the best so far.   See you back here after the next.

See also: The Romanoffs 1.1: The Violet Hour: Compelling, Anti-Binge Watchable Comedy of Manners ... The Romanoffs 1.2: The Royal We: A Walk on the Dark Side ... The Romanoffs 1.4: Expectation: Unfulfilled ... The Romanoffs 1.5: Bright and High Circle: Music and Abuse ... The Romanoffs 1.6: Panorama: The Royal Disease ... The Romanoffs 1.7: End of the Line: The Adoption Racket ... The Romanoffs 1.8:  The One that Holds Everything: Writer on a Train

It all starts in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn walks off the set
of The Misfits and begins to hear a haunting song in her head,
"Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

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